Keith Anthony Sanford

Artist, Father, Life Editor, Real Piece Of Work.

“Bojangles” And Me

I’m a 53 year old man who was blessed to have a father who both tap danced and played piano.We would gather at my Aunt Beulah’s house for the holidays and he and my uncle would play Jazz and they would talk about seeing Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra as kids. The conversation would always go to how my father won my mother’s hand because he was an amazing dancer. Then the conversation would shift to who in the family was actually the best dancer. My dad and his brothers would put a record on, clear the floor and “trade blows” where one would do a dance step and the other brother would attempt to top it. This would go on for long stretches of time in my Aunt Beulah’s basement as she would entertain us spectators, offering us punch and more dessert. I remember everyone, especially my sister and I, having a blast.

My Father was older when I was born, so when I became a teenager, he and I weren’t as close as I’m sure he wished we were. I was just a kid. All I knew was that I was not interested in hearing how hard his life was because it was always in the context of how ungrateful he thought I was. I was young and rebellious, not realizing what he meant to me at the time and what his absence would mean to me now.

I remember when I was like 6 or 7, sitting in front the television and seeing Sammy Davis Jr. sing his signature song “Mr. Bojangles”. It was a deeply sad song to me as a young kid and it always made me cry then. I wasn’t exactly sure why this song about this old Entertainer at the end of his career made me somber, but I noticed also that my Dad’s mood would change whenever Sammy sang this song on television. I would learn later that my father had given up his dream of becoming an Entertainer in order to take care of his family. I asked him near the end of his life if he had any regrets and he said to me while he had none about his career choice, he wished that he had never stopped playing the piano. In that moment, I realized that my Dad was “Mr. Bojangles”. It was in his blood. He gave up what he loved most in the world in order to take care of us.

My father was the greatest example of not only what a Father was, but what a man was. I HAVE NO EXCUSES. I don’t get to be a bad Dad, nor do I have any legitimate excuse to explain away my shortcomings. I understand that while I can’t be a perfect Father or Man, my responsibility is to strive to be both. My Father, through loving his family and setting an example for me, quite unintentionally set the bar very high and I gladly accept the challenge.

I won’t stop trying to be like you, Pops, because I still want to make you proud. Just continue to watch over your baby boy…and save me a seat.

Your Money: Why Youth is Wasted on the Young

Oh to be young again. To know what I know and have an opportunity to start over. Many of us wish we could turn back time and change the course of our history. Maybe it was a career we didn’t pursue, or maybe we gave up to too easily when the “one that got away” got away. Most of your missteps you can over come later in life, but one that is most difficult to recover from is finding yourself older with financial limitations. Being young and broke is bad news, but with time you can recover. Being old and broke is nothing but bad news because there is no time to recover. Whatever your regrets in the past, don’t let these money misconceptions adversely affect your financial future:

 

You think becoming a Millionaire is out of reach.

If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, you can be a Millionaire if you want to be. There’s no trick to it. It’s pretty simple. Wealth building is less about how much you invest and more about how long that money is invested. Time is what makes invested money grow. If you’re not saving and investing while you’re young, you’re making a mistake you may regret. I came into this knowledge later in my life, but if I had known it in my 20’s, I’d be a Millionaire by now and laying on a beach somewhere.

 

You think saving is enough.

While saving is important, investing is essential to building wealth. Take these scenarios:

  1. Saving $100 a month,  at the end of five years you will have  $6000.00.
  2. Investing that same $100 a month in an index fund yielding just 5%, at the end of five years you will have  $6962.30.
  3. That same $100 a month, if it was invested over the last five years when the yield was 13.2%, today you would have $8837.81.

Basically invested money grows, saved money just sits there. Saving is safer, but at a significant cost.

 

You think you have time.

Ever hear the story of Jack & Jill? Trust me, waiting to save is doing SERIOUS damage to your potential net worth. The majority of that gain in the last five years in the example above was made in only four quarters over that stretch in time, which confirms the theory that leaving your money invested and staying the course will give you the best opportunity to build wealth. Don’t try to “play the market”. it’s too unpredictable. Stay the course and time will pay you well. Starting early gives time the opportunity to pay you well.

 

Saving is not a priority.

If you’re not saving and investing because HBO or a new Iphone is more important than your future financial freedom, it’s certainly your choice to make. It’s a dumb choice, but it’s yours to make. As Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., Author of “Mojo Mom” says, “I’m pretty sure that no one on their deathbed has ever wished they had watched more television or surfed the internet more.”

It’s really up to you to decide what’s important in life. Money’s not the key to everyone’s happiness. Not everyone wants to be rich, but who doesn’t want to be financially free?

Confessions Of A Social Claustrophobic

When you discover that you are missing something essential to the success you seek, you can react a number of ways. I’m currently working on fixing one of my issues. If you knew me, you’d know that I’m not the most social person around. As a matter of fact, I’m actually pretty comfortable being by myself. I would always explain it to others by saying that I revel in solitude but even I’m having trouble seeing that as nothing more than an excuse to be antisocial. I’m beginning to see this personality trait as the social “inefficiency” it is, so it’s time to do something.

I’ve always appreciated a comfortable distance between me and those around me. Most of the circles I find myself in, I notice that I have nothing in common with them. I’m in a fantasy football league, but I’m not that big of a fan. I used to play video games with friends, but now I seem to have lost interest in them. I relocated to a different region of the country and yet the only friends I’ve made are my colleagues at work but I don’t socialize outside of work. I’m so put off by useless “small talk” that when I’m in an elevator I pretend to be texting just so I won’t have to hold a conversation with others around me. One of my favorite things to do in the world is visit art galleries, but I don’t do that anymore because I don’t want to engage or be engaged in conversation with strangers, even those that share my interest in art. I’ve noticed myself withdrawing and becoming what I term  a “Social Claustrophobic.” I’m not yet sure if I’ve actually suffered from this condition, but I now recognize my children avoiding interaction and more importantly competition, which, I think is essential to developing self confidence and humility. I am now wanting to change, not because of what I’m missing per se, but because of what they might miss.

I remember being in my teens and being terrified at the thought of hanging out with people. “What would I say to them?”, I thought, when I would get invited by a friend to attend an event or just go for a drive.  I had no idea how to respond to the opposite sex in a social environment and there was no one to help me get over this fear so I morphed into being a loner. I thought it was just good ole fashioned teenage boy nerves around the opposite sex and while some of it could be explained that way, I was just as nervous and unwilling around other boys. I was encouraged by my parents to just go hang out and be myself and in my teens, that sounded like bad advice. The older I got, the more I could justify not socializing. It actually became my thing in my 20’s. I was the tall, dark and enigmatic guy. The antisocial “artsy” type that women wanted to explore and get to know. I was a hit with the ladies who wanted a challenge, but I missed out on opportunities to get to know others who just wanted to have a conversation.

Now my work and my schedule justify my distance from people and I’m smart enough to be able to disguise it as being really busy all the time when in reality, I am a bit lonely. It’s no big deal really…I can handle my loneliness, I’ve grown accustomed to it, but I don’t want my sons to miss out on opportunities because they are following my pattern. I would rather inspire them to build relationships their entire life and to constantly cultivate them. It will make them better people in the long run, I’m convinced of it. And it’s not too late for me. I live near one of the culturally richest areas in the country, Washington, DC. and I fully intend to spread my wings and get out there and interact with people. I too can be a better person. I’ve just gotta make a little effort and start by just being myself.

Rope-A-Dope

I know from experience that life hurts when you’re growing and we all have, from time to time, experienced growing pains. I also know that some people refuse to grow and as a result, they feel nothing and the only thing worse than feeling pain is feeling nothing at all. At least with pain you know you’re alive.

Good for me, God speaks to me in a way I can relate. The heavens don’t open and a big voice doesn’t speak directly to me like in the movie “The Ten Commandments”. Instead, He drops a small thought for me to nibble on as I go about my day. Some people call this intuition, some call it gut instinct. Whatever you call it, every once in a while I get the smallest morsel in which to digest and it renews my appetite for growth every single time.

I was on Youtube this morning and I saw something that reminded me of Muhammad Ali and one of his most effective modes of defense: the “Rope-a Dope”.

The key to  this maneuver was to stand in a posture with your guard up that protected your vital areas while your opponent wore himself out attempting unsuccessfully to break your will. He even dared his opponent to break him, talking to him as the opponent gave him everything he had.  Ali knew his opponent would eventually run out of steam, but in order for this to work, the most important thing he had to do was efficiently and effectively protect himself on the ropes, move his head and rock side to side to lessen the impact of the attack.

LESSON OF THE DAY: If your posture’s not right and your guard is weak and you don’t keep moving, your opponent will most assuredly beat you up.

Tired of getting beat up by your circumstances? Consider your posture.

The “Uniter”?

I am glad to be back contributing to my blog. It’s been a while since I’ve even written anything. I suffered the loss of my only remaining sibling and I have to admit, there’s something missing. I’m not even sure if I was aware of how much my sister Saundra meant to my creative process. We would speak a few times each week and not really about what I was working on, but more about her art and writing. Saundra  was a creative person who lived to express herself. She often drew and painted and wrote poetry. She is the reason I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was always wanting to be like my big sister. We were nine years apart, but because we lost our Mother so young(I was 15, she was 24) she just kinda became more of a parental figure than just an older sibling.

I am the youngest of five children. There was Mary Katherine, my eldest sister, Charles Edward, my eldest brother, William my other brother and Saundra Renee, aka
“Nay Nay”. Technically, my brother William is still alive, but he’s been estranged from the family since the 80’s. I’m not really sure why and because I never really knew him, I don’t really care. Family has always been about who decided to be there for you, so as a result, I have an abundance of “brothers and sisters” who share no DNA with me, but love me and I love them.

I would always say in defense of being a “family” person that “biology is overrated”. It doesn’t take common blood for a person to be there for you. It’s really about a choice. My dilemma now, though, is the fact that Nay Nay was the “family” person. She stayed in touch with cousins I’ve never met and did things with our family without me. She knew the importance of keeping in touch and she accepted from me the notion that it didn’t exactly matter to me. That is probably a direct result of my suffering so much loss in my life. My Mom, my older siblings and finally my father passing lead to an even greater withdrawal from “my people”. I think subconsciously it seemed like everyone that was important to me was being taken, so my defense mechanism was the distance I safely kept between me and those related to me outside of my children and my sister’s children. Now I’m in the position of being the “uniter” between my nieces, nephew and sons and the vast landscape of blood relatives that I’ve all but ignored my entire life. I have, by way of my sister’s passing, become the catalyst to stifle the random diaspora of Sanfords related to me. I have to bring us all back to the table and encourage the continuation of our conversation of getting to know each other. I’m not sure I have it in me, but for Nay Nay, I’ll give it my best.

Pray my strength…

What I owe my dad.

I love that my life at times has been difficult. Certain lessons only come that way, frankly. When things are given to you, there’s less appreciation for them. All I have is because of God Almighty, my choices, hard work and the groundwork laid by my dad.

My father was an uneducated man who knew that the way to financial freedom was through ownership. Over the course of his life, he worked very hard taking care of us while attempting to own and run a successful business. He didn’t have the know how or the means to learn what he needed to learn and he often dealt with obstacles of prejudice and racism, so while he passed his entrepeneurial spirit to us, he was often not building because of the sacrifices he made for us. He helped all five of his children pay for college and preached the promise that “if you get a good education, you will get a good job.” I only learned about his entrepeneurial side from my older sister. My dad was 47 when I, the youngest of the five, was born so by the time I came along, he had pretty much surrendered his desire to be a business owner and had instead, given in to the idea of settling for a decent job. He would go on to be a pretty successful man in the textile working industry with only a fifth grade education, but he was unable to own something that he could pass on to us.

My goal is to exceed his expectations for me. I got the “good education” and I have a pretty good job at the moment, but neither came easy because of some personal choices. I’m still not an owner, which means I’m at the mercy of someone else’s decisions. My delve into this online frontier stems from what I owe my father. Not only is my goal to become financially independent, but to own my own business; a money making system that I can pass onto my children, not just because it’s what my dad always wanted to do for his children, but because it is possible. I’ve got hard work in my blood so I’m well on my way. Pray my strength.

It’s time to give up the good seats.

“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.”
― Nathan W. Morris

Some of us are spectators in life. We don’t pursue that passion that’s pulling at us, pulsating just under the surface of our skin. Instead, we settle into boring, unfulfilling jobs and relationships. We seek out safe places to hide. Some of us are those kids who sat in the back of the room in high school. Somewhere we learned that volunteering or even speaking up was not cool, so we politely kept our ideas and our excitement to ourselves. Even now, we shield ourselves in life. The minute we share something about ourselves with even our closest friends, we barracade our revelations behind excuses, effectively and preemptively diluting their responses. We seek out the good seats so we can share proximity to the action without ever having to act. We choose, instead to mooch off of the energy and excitement of someone else’s daring adventure into vulnerability. We think we’re being clever, but fate is on to us.

Initially, we start out very excited and ready to contribute. Most of us are ready to bring more to the table than we actually take from it, fully prepared to leave our mark. But then something happens that makes us back off of our exuberance. Something comes to steal that childlike innocence and open mindedness and we morph, slowly, subtly into the way things actually are. We settle into “realism”.

“Keeping it real,” as my children mutter way too often for my taste, is how the new generation describes itself as being Realists. This is, to me, the classic of all cop outs because it covers a multitude of beliefs, effort, faith and desires to be different, or to be better,  or even to strive. Apparently, being a Realist means not trying or giving up shortly after you start. It means hedging your bets, so as not to waste time with stupid stuff like hopes and dreams or possibilities that, to the naked eye, seem out of reach. We embrace, defend and to some extent, celebrate our self imposed limits by “keeping in real.”

…and that’s just plain dumb.

I have had to check myself in the past from time to time when I felt myself easing away from my dreams. I’ve stood at the crest of my possibilities and gazed across at the goals I’d like to accomplish and if I’m being completely honest, there were and still are times when that span seems too great to clear in one leap. I would talk myself out of even trying and I would justify my decision by focusing on what it would cost me if I failed. What I didn’t realize until recently is what not trying was costing me. I had this whole “keeping it real” thing all wrong. Being real with one’s self should mean that we see most things, or at the very least, what we desire to achieve, as possible.

Unfortunately, our actions and decisions as parents bear fruit and I began to notice my sons, ranging in ages from twenty to five, becoming less competitive and withdrawing from opportunities to interact with their peers. They were using my excuses to avoid challenges and social opportunities. This revelation changed me.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when you realize that you don’t inspire your children the way you want to.

I was faced with a choice; I could continue to “keep it real” in front of my boys or let them see the real me. I could let them see dear old Dad pursue his dreams and sometimes fall short. As important as I think it is for sons to see their Fathers win in life, I now realize the equal importance of sharing with them the lessons that come with not reaching a goal. I won’t classify it as failure because to me, there’s no such thing as failure if you’re trying. It’s my responsibility to teach them the lessons that I owe them as men that will one day raise my grandchildren. I need to inspire them to strive….and win….and try and try and try again. Pray my strength.